CMS has posted its October 2014 update to the Medicare average sales price (ASP) drug pricing files, which contain the payment amounts that CMS will use to pay for Part B covered drugs for the fourth quarter of 2014. CMS notes that prices for the top Part B drugs decreased by 0.4% on average this quarter.
CMS has announced that the 2015 Medicare ambulance update factor for determining the payment limit for Medicare ambulance services will be 1.4%. This update reflects the a 2.1% increase in the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U), which is partially offset by a 0.7% productivity adjustment in accordance with the ACA.
In an effort to reduce the backlog in Medicare appeals related to certain short-stay hospital claims, CMS is offering an "administrative agreement" providing partial payment to hospitals that drop their appeals. Specifically, CMS would provide a payment equal to 68% of the net payable amount to acute care hospitals or critical access hospitals (CAH) willing to resolve their pending appeals (or waive their right to request an appeal) for inpatient-status claim denials with dates of admissions prior to October 1, 2013, and where the patient was not a Part C enrollee. Such denials involve services that may have been reasonable and necessary, but the contractor contends that treatment on an inpatient basis was not. A hospital may not choose to settle some claims and continue to appeal others, and certain hospitals could be excluded from participating in the settlement based on pending False Claims Act investigations. Also note that PPS-excluded hospitals are not eligible to participate in this program. CMS is encouraging eligible hospitals with such claim denials "to make use of this administrative agreement to alleviate the burden of current appeals on both the hospital and Medicare system." Hospitals should send their request for agreement by October 31, 2014 or request an extension from CMS. CMS is hosting a national provider call on September 9, 2014 to discuss the settlement process.
On August 28, 2014, CMS announced the latest changes to the deadlines associated with the Sunshine Act “Open Payments" System review and dispute process resulting from additional system down-time. Specifically, because the system will be periodically unavailable on August 30 and September 5, CMS is making the following changes to the data review and correction periods:
- Review and dispute (45 days): 7/14/2014 – 8/3/2014, 8/14/2014 – 9/10/2014
- Correction period (15 days): 9/11/2014 – 9/25/2014
CMS is still standing by its September 30, 2014 target date for public release of the data, although it remains to be seen whether continuing questions about the data integrity and the shrinking window to resolve all technical issues will permit CMS to meet this deadline.
* Note that CMS announced on September 9 that it was extending the review and dispute period for one more day, through September 11, 2014.
CMS Fingerprint-Based Background Checks are Underway - Impacting "High-Risk" Providers and Suppliers
CMS's long-awaited fingerprint-based background check screening process is underway for certain “high-risk” providers and suppliers participating in federal health care programs (specifically, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program). Under CMS regulations, individuals who maintain a 5 percent or greater direct or indirect ownership interest in a provider or supplier in the high risk category -- including newly-enrolling home health agencies (HHAs) and newly-enrolling durable medical equipment, orthotics, prosthetics, and supplies (DMEPOS) suppliers -- are subject to a fingerprint-based criminal history report check of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
This week CMS announced that the fingerprint-based background check process was launched on August 6, 2014. CMS confirmed that not all providers and suppliers in the “high” screening category will be included in the first phase of the background checks. Fingerprint-based background checks eventually will be required, however, “for all individuals with a 5 percent or greater ownership interest in a provider or supplier that falls into the high risk category and is currently enrolled in Medicare or has submitted an initial enrollment application.”
Medicare Administrative Contractors will send letters to the applicable providers or suppliers listing all 5 percent or greater owners who are required to be fingerprinted, and applicable individuals will have 30 days from the date of the notification letter to be fingerprinted at one of at least three specified locations. Fingerprints will be forwarded to the FBI, which will compile the background history and share results with the Fingerprint-based Background Check (FBBC) contractor (Accurate Biometrics). The FBBC will provide CMS with a "fitness recommendation" for the individual indicating whether the criminal history record information contains enrollment violations or otherwise fails to meet CMS enrollment requirements; CMS will then make the final determination about the provider or supplier.
CMS Revises Sunshine Act "Open Payments" System Review/Dispute Deadlines Amid Concerns about Data Accuracy
CMS has reopened the Open Payments system after it was taken offline temporarily to “resolve a data integrity issue.” According to a CMS press release, applicable manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) had submitted intermingled data (e.g., wrong state license number or national provider identifier) for doctors with the same last and first names, which erroneously linked payments in the Open Payments system. CMS has enhanced its algorithms and validation checks in an attempt to resolve the issues and removed incorrect payment transactions. CMS states that it will remove the questionable data from the current review and dispute process and will not publish this data this year; according to multiple press reports, this has resulted in the removal of one-third of the records from the system.
CMS has also extended the Open Payments review and dispute deadline and the following 15-day corrections period deadline for each day the Open Payments system was offline. The review and dispute period now ends September 8, 2014, the correction period will run through September 9-23, 2014, and the public website launch date remains September 30, 2014.
CMS contends that its correction efforts underscores that it “is committed to ensuring the integrity of data made available to the public.” Nevertheless, the scope of the reported errors and the exclusion of millions of records raise broader questions about the accuracy and completeness of the database and heighten concerns about the potential for public and press misinterpretation of the incomplete data set.
CMS is seeking input on potential initiatives to test innovative models that increase the engagement of Medicare, Medicaid, and/or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries in their health and health care. CMS is especially interested in models that use evidence-based social and behavioral insights to improve beneficiary involvement in behaviors and activities meant to improve their health status and outcomes. CMS will accept comments until September 15, 2014.
CMS has announced that it is extending for an additional 6 months its current enrollment moratoria for new ground ambulance suppliers and home health agencies (HHAs)within designated metropolitan areas. The moratoria, which affect enrollment in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, apply to new ground ambulances in the Houston and Philadelphia metropolitan areas and new HHAs in the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, and Miami. CMS discusses its rationale for extending the enrollment moratoria, including the qualitative and quantitative factors suggesting a high risk of fraud, waste, or abuse, in an August 1, 2014 notice. The extension is effective July 30, 2014. CMS may lift the moratoria before the end of the 6-month period or announce extensions in the Federal Register notice.
CMS has announced a new “Medicare Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG) Demonstration” that will evaluate the potential benefits of providing payment for items and services needed for in-home administration of IVIG for the treatment of primary immune deficiency disease (PIDD). Under this demonstration, which will last three years, Medicare will provide a bundled Part B payment for items and services that are necessary to administer IVIG in the home to enrolled beneficiaries who are not otherwise homebound and receiving home health care benefits. The demonstration only applies to situations where the beneficiary requires IVIG for the treatment of PIDD, or is currently receiving subcutaneous immune globulin to treat PIDD and wants to switch to IVIG. The demonstration is limited to 4,000 Medicare beneficiaries nationwide, and the statute authorizes up to $45 million to pay for services and administrative costs. Beneficiaries who want to participate in the demonstration must submit an application signed by the beneficiary and his or her physician and meet specified eligibility requirements. The initial enrollment period ends on September 12, 2014; applications received after that date will be considered on a space-available basis only. Services will be covered under the demonstration beginning October 1, 2014.
CMS has announced that, in light of the continued delay in awarding new Recovery Auditor contracts, it is modifying current contracts to allow the Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) to restart some reviews. While CMS anticipates that most reviews will be done on an automated basis, a limited number will be complex reviews of topics selected by CMS. CMS hopes that the new round of RAC contracts will be awarded this year.
CMS has taken the Open Payments system offline temporarily “to investigate a reported issue,” according to a recent CMS email announcement. As a result, physicians, teaching hospitals, and authorized representatives may not register and review data related to payments by applicable manufacturers and applicable group purchasing organizations at this time. The shut-down of the system reportedly results from the discovery of errors in payments attributed to a doctor, which underscores the importance of careful review of system data during the dispute and correction period. While this window was scheduled to run through August 27, 2014, CMS stated in its email that it will extend the Open Payments review and dispute deadline and the following 15-day corrections period deadline for each day the Open Payments system is offline.
CMS has revised its earlier policy on Medicare Part D payments for drugs used by beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare hospice. In a July 18, 2014 memo, CMS is modifying its March 10, 2014 guidance to Part D sponsors that imposed a prior authorization (PA) requirement for all drugs for hospice beneficiaries in light of operational issues and access concerns. The revised guidance narrows the Part D hospice PA provision to four categories of drugs that the OIG, in consultation with hospice providers, has identified as nearly always covered under the hospice benefit. Specifically, CMS will now “strongly encourage” Part D sponsors to place beneficiary-level PA requirements only on: analgesics, antinauseants (antiemetics), laxatives, and antianxiety drugs (anxiolytics). Part D sponsors are not expected to place hospice PA requirements on other categories of drugs or take special measures beyond normal compliance and utilization review activities to retrospectively review paid claims to determine whether drugs in the other categories were unrelated to the hospice beneficiary’s terminal illness and related conditions or payment recovery.
CMS has made a series of announcements related to the Sunshine Act Open Payments system, including information about the Open Payments review, dispute and correction process that runs from July 14 through August 27, 2014. This period allows physicians and teaching hospitals to review and initiate any disputes they may have regarding the data reported about them by applicable manufacturers and applicable group purchasing organizations. CMS has also extensively updated the Open Payments User Guide, which is intended to provide industry, physicians, and teaching hospitals with a comprehensive understanding of the Open Payments system and reporting requirements.
CMS Announces Plans for Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Round 2 Recompete and National Mail-Order Recompete
On July 15, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its plans to recompete the supplier contracts awarded in Round 2 of the Medicare Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Bidding Program and the National Mail-Order diabetic testing supplies competition, as it is required by statute to do at least every three years. The current contract period expires June 30, 2016; the new contracts will begin on July 1, 2016. For the recompete, CMS is making changes to both the composition of the product categories (including adding new products) and the number of competitive bidding areas (CBAs).
The product categories to be included in the Round 2 Recompete are as follows:Continue Reading...
As recently announced, CMS is conducting what it describes as a “limited demonstration” of an internet-based notice and comment mechanism on internally-generated requests to discontinue Level II HCPCS codes. CMS has just released details regarding the first two HCPCS codes it is proposing to remove under this process:
- A7042 Implanted Pleural Catheter, Each. CMS rationale: the catheter is included in the procedure and therefore a separate code is unnecessary.
- A9586 Florbetapir f18, diagnostic, per study dose, up to 10 millicuries. CMS rationale: HCPCS code A9599 “Radiopharmaceutical, Diagnostic, for beta-amyloid positron emission tomography (pet) imaging, per study dose” adequately describes this product.
CMS will accept public comments on the proposed HCPCS discontinuations until July 21, 2014. Comments should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include the following text in the subject line: “COMMENT RE: DISCONTINUATION OF CODE _____.”
HHS has released a report on premiums, tax credits, and health plan choices on the ACA federal Marketplace for plans operating in 2014. In addition, CMS has launched an initiative, dubbed “From Coverage to Care," designed to answer questions consumers may have about their new health coverage under the ACA and to help individuals make the most of their new benefits. The Administration also has announced a number of management changes at CMS designed to strengthen implementation of the ACA going forward, including a Principal Deputy Administrator to oversee ACA Marketplace and other agency operations, a Marketplace Chief Executive Officer, and a Marketplace Chief Technology Officer.
In an effort to “increase program transparency and offer more efficient resolutions to providers” subject to the medical review process, CMS has created the new position of “Provider Relations Coordinator." The Provider Relations Coordinator is intended to improve communication between providers and CMS on medical review process issues. For instance, providers can contact the Provider Relations Coordinator when an auditor is failing to comply with documentation request limits or has a pattern of not issuing review results letters in a timely manner. Providers also can submit recommendations for improving the Recovery Auditor or Medicare Administrative Contractor medical review process to the Provider Relations Coordinator.
On June 18, 2014, CMS announced in a blog posting that it is planning to add a “Five Star” quality rating system to the Hospital Compare, Dialysis Facility Compare, and Home Health Compare websites on Medicare.gov. The agency will start making the new quality ratings available later this year and into early 2015. CMS already maintains star ratings on its Nursing Home Compare and Physician Compare sites.
Earlier this month, CMS released its first annual update to its Medicare inpatient and outpatient hospital charge databases. Specifically, the updated CMS databases include information on 2012 average hospital charges for the 100 most common Medicare inpatient services and 30 most common Medicare outpatient services. The database now includes two years of data, allowing researchers to begin to look at trends. CMS also has released a variety of information on chronic conditions among Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries, including data on prevalence, utilization, and Medicare spending. In addition, the CMS Geographic Variation Dashboards present Medicare FFS per-capita spending at the state and county levels in interactive formats, and a CMS Research Cohort Estimate Tool is intended to help researchers and other stakeholders estimate the number of Medicare beneficiaries with certain demographic profiles or health conditions.
CMS has released the average sales price (ASP) files that will be used to pay for Medicare Part B drugs for the third quarter of 2014. According to CMS, “average drug prices in the market remain relatively stable,” with prices for the top Part B drugs increasing by 1.8% on average.